Teachers can quickly spot a child who appears to be shy. There are some signs that are common among students who are shy. A shy student will often turn away when spoken to, give very little voluntary speech, talks very quietly, follows directions, but gives very little verbal response, makes very little eye contact and watches rather than participates whenever possible.
These are also signs of autism, deafness, depression and speech delay. Make certain the child is simply shy and does not require more specialized help. Once it is determined that the child is shy (a label the child should never hear) there are a number of things a teacher can do to help the child become more social.
* Help the child approach others
A child who is extremely shy often finds it very hard to make initial contact with other children. A teacher can help the child by giving them a purpose for making contact. Ask the child to take a paper or a message to a student. When they the child completes the assignment thank them. Make sure that there are others who are delivering and completing tasks as well. A child who is shy does not need to be burdened with the term “teacher’s pet”.
* Arrange some structured small group interactivity
The key to the success in this group is that there is dialogue and no one is wrong. It may be that the shy child just parrots other responses, it is still participating. It’s a step. Here is an excellent example of a quick small group interactive. Give each child a picture with a word they can identify. For a 5 person group cards might be color, food, toys, games, and people. The child holds up their card and reads it. Then each person has to say something that belongs in that group. This activity has been done is a class situation many times before it reaches small groups, so everyone knows the routine.
* Rehearse activities and expectations
Social surprises are not welcomed or enjoyed by extremely shy children. Preparation and rehearsal help to make social interactions easier. For example, if the child is going to be the line leader, have them be in the second position so the child will hear the directions multiple times before it is their turn to be the leader. Do this with all new roles.
* Extra time
In almost any verbal situation the child needs extra time to get the words out. A teacher needs to use patience and teach the class to respect the need for time. One creative teacher set a timer that would go for a minute before the children would be able to answer a question. Sometimes in that minute shy children are able to gather their thoughts and offer an answer.
It is terrible for a child to ever hear that they are shy. Labels rarely fix situations. Forget the labels and work on the behaviors.